LOREAK (Flowers, 2014)
Directed by José Mari Goenaga and Jon Garaño
Written by José Mari Goenaga, Jon Garaño and Aitor Arregui
Starring: Nagore Aranburu, Itziar Aizpuru, Itziar Ituño
BY R. MARTÍNEZ
Why do we give flowers to people? Are they a colourful allegory of youth and beauty? Or are they a tangible proof of feelings such as love or perhaps regret? Flowers are the main theme that binds the film Loreak’s female protagonists together. Loreak was filmed in the Basque language and is one of the strongest examples of 2015’s Basque cinema together with Asier Altuna’s enigmatic Amama.
Loreak revolves around the lives of three women living in an unspecified area in the Basque country. Colours are soft, light is dim and rain, constant. The film starts with Ane (Nagore Aranburu), a woman in her late thirties who has just been diagnosed with premature menopause. Ane’s marriage with Ander is dull and stuck in routine. To make things worse, Ane starts receiving flowers regularly from an anonymous sender. The story shifts to unsatisfied and moody Lourdes (Itziar Ituño). For Lourdes, her family life seems as constraining as the motorway toll booth in which she works. She blames her husband Beñat (Josean Bengoetxea), as he remains passive towards his mother’s constant remarks about their family (a splendid Itziar Aizpuru as Tere). Ane, Lourdes and Tere’s lives take an unexpected turn after a terrible accident involving Beñat happens.
Loreak focuses on a complex world of relationships where complete strangers feel closer than actual family members. At the start of the film flowers can be interpreted as a symbol of hope, especially for Ane. As the film unfolds the theme of memory stands out more prominently. Flowers are a representation of the tacit choice between remembering and forgetting. These two aspects are especially obvious in the characters of Tere and Lourdes. Tere is obsessed with remembrance whereas Lourdes seems unable to confront her own memories, her past.
In an early scene, Ane and Ander are watching the news. The report makes reference to the Spanish Historical Memory Law which would imply the investigation of Francoist crimes and the identification of mass grave victims. Within this context, flowers could be interpreted as a quiet yet unavoidable presence of the past in contemporary Spanish society. A past that must be unearthed in order to be understood.
Loreak is an intimate, impressionistic story told by means of a beautiful cinematography. The narrative adopts a multi-dimensional perspective – like a game of mirrors – thanks to the balanced interconnection between the main characters. The title’s flowers may allude to memory, the act of remembering and refusing to do so. Or perhaps as the film’s subtitle ironically claims: They are only flowers.